I consider myself a girl’s girl to my core. I unequivocally have my girlfriends’ backs. Nonetheless, to-date my status as a “groomsmaid” outpaces my tenure as a bridesmaid.
What does that mean? I’ve been the sole female representation in the groom’s party, asked by multiple male friends to stand up with them before their community and whatever kind of god they believe in when they’ve said “I do” to the woman of their dreams. (And it’s not as if I’m the token tomboy in a crew of dudes. This has been for guys that don’t even know each other. Go figure.)
The groomsmaid dynamic is an a-typical role in this culture - the female platonic best friend to a hetero male. Far from being a rom-com set up, it’s a privilege. Here’s why: When things go south - and I mean get really bad - I’m often the person they turn to.
You name it, I’ve heard it. Inky-black depression, shame spirals related to loss of income, intense OCD fixations, breakdowns caused by breakups, suicidal ideation, full-blown anxiety attacks and more. All sorts of arduous emotional terrain.
But the stunning thing is that I’m often the only one they tell. Maybe their mother, too. But that’s pretty much it. Not their male friends, not their wives or girlfriends, certainly not their colleagues or mentors. Why? Because they feel their suffering would be perceived as irrevocable weakness, something they absolutely cannot afford. Their identity cannot accommodate their own suffering.
Which brings me to AllSwell. Ten plus years ago I was working predominantly in action sports. Between privately bearing witness to searing male pain, and the toxic, cartoonish bro-ism I was seeing at work, it was clear these guys needed an outlet for releasing and processing their emotions. Like, for instance, a journal.
At that time journaling was most frequently (and inaccurately) considered a diversion for emo teen girls. But I knew how radically transformative and supportive putting pen to paper could be because of my own journey. When I was ideating AllSwell my goal was to build a tent big enough for everyone to come on in, including the guys. When I dove into research mode I discovered just how beneficial journaling could be for the emotional and mental well-being of men. (Read more about that here.)
I’ve been actively spreading the good word ever since. While I can’t personally show up for all the men out there privately enduring pain and wanting more for themselves, I can help them find their way to a notebook - which has been scientifically proven to help.
Enter Mathew McConaughey, who pretty much embodies the prototypical dude archetype. No fewer than a dozen people forwarded this video to me in which he recently told guys to put pen to paper as a tool for becoming a better man. Hallelujah, amen! Here it was, peer to peer affirmation. Finally.
Now, I recognize that it isn’t fashionable to be helping out hetero guys these days. But hear me out. This is about supporting the collective. If a man is mentally unwell, suppressing dark emotions, it’s probably going to effect everyone around them. They’re more likely to be jerks (or worse) to their partner, their children, their colleagues, their managers, their neighbors, random people they interact with, etc. The flipside? If they’re emotionally fit, they’re probably not going to wreak as much havoc on the rest of us. It’s better for everyone.
So if you love a man - be it your son, brother, husband, lover, friend - encourage him to journal. It’s great if you want to make it an AllSwell notebook, but it doesn't have to be. Maybe get him The Deck of prompts so he knows where to start, how to use the deceptively simple and revolutionary technology of pen and paper. Heck, get him a 1:1 creative coaching session if you really want to help him out. As a bonafide groomsmaid, I’m a safe haven.
And if you’re reading this as a man in emotional pain, please don’t suffer alone. Reach out, even if you don’t quite know what you need. We’ll get you networked into some support. It’s a demonstration of strength because you’re not just looking out for yourself, you’re protecting all those around you.
Take good care of each other out there…